With NBA free agency upon us, there has been a peak in interest surrounding the moves being made across the league. Everyone is waiting to see which teams acquire new talent, and how many teams retain their own free agents in the process. While there are plenty of great players available, none as polarizing as LeBron James. After opting out of his contract last week, rumors started running rampant on what he plans to do.
As a free agent James has a list of options, as many teams would do just about anything to get him on their roster. Realistically there are only a few locations that one can imagine that James would seriously consider, but that doesn’t mean teams with the cap space and the potential assets shouldn’t throw their names in the mix.
Having already won two championships with plenty of great years left in him, let’s take a look at the three top teams that would be a suitable fit for the coveted free agent.
1. Miami Heat
The best option for LeBron James is without a doubt staying in Miami. He’s already won here, and he knows this organization as well as one would expect at this point. The only flaw here is the desire to keep the “Big 3″ intact. Pat Riley is a man that’s committed to retooling the team to continue giving Miami the best chance to win year in, year out. At worst bringing back a core of James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade still puts them miles ahead of the rest of the Eastern Conference. The issue is that this core isn’t enough, and can’t be relied on too heavily (specifically Wade). By drafting Shabazz Napier, a young point guard that James thinks highly of, Miami has already started to retool.
The Heat need to solidify depth more than they need to score the top free agent available like Kyle Lowry. Yes, Lowry is an immediate upgrade, but LeBron James is ultimately the biggest draw no matter who they pick up. Realistically, you won’t find players even close to the talent and production levels that he will provide, but you can certainly persuade some older and valuable veterans to sign. Vince Carter, Trevor Ariza, Jameer Nelson, could all potentially solidify the bench. They may not be the “Carmelo Anthonys” of the litter, but keep in mind Miami has dominated with players like Shane Battier and a shell of Rashard Lewis. Anyone they add will most likely be an upgrade over players they relied heavily on last season, and if Ray Allen chooses not retire and return you provide another shooter. Ultimately this is the best situation LeBron can ask for if his goal is to be in contention for a title every year.
2. Houston Rockets
If LeBron does decide to leave South Beach, then the next destination he should consider is Houston. With or without a potential Melo landing (which is easier said than done), LeBron James with James Harden and Dwight Howard would become an instant contender. With Howard, he would have a dominant center that’s true to his position that can single-handedly change the course of games. With Harden there would be no need to carry the load at the levels that he did in Miami this past season. As the best shooting guard in the NBA, Harden provides prolific scoring that would make them the best wing combination in the league. Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverly are both solid point guards that aren’t worse than what he had to work with in Miami. This should be a no brainer should LeBron decide the grass is greener on the other side.
3. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are a dark horse pick, but one that certainly shouldn’t be discounted. After a season in which they won 48 games with a roster that many people severely underrated, Phoenix has the cap space and flexibility to continue to improve. If there was only reason LeBron needed to seriously consider the Suns, it would be in Eric Bledsoe. They share the same agent, and Bledsoe is another player that LeBron is extremely high on as he calls him “Mini-LeBron”. Due to Bledsoe being a restricted free agent it’s a strong probability that Phoenix will match any offer made towards him. With Bledsoe locked down, Goran Dragic playing at an elite level, and a bench as good as any Phoenix provides a chance for LeBron to truly redefine his legacy.
They can also provide LeBron with a max contract with money to spare. All of their players are relatively bargains considering the immense production they created last season, and the team is in a position where it can afford to retool when needed.
Ultimately the odds are in Miami’s favor to retain LeBron. It’s the most logical spot, and certainly the safest route for him at this point. With that said any team that enlists the services of LeBron James will be an instant contender, just how much of one depends on the pieces at their disposal. Either way until LeBron makes his decision there will sure to be plenty of speculation as the days continue.